Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Movie Madness Challenge - November and December Report

Time for my combination eleventh and twelfth status report for the Movie Madness Challenge.


It took an entire year of concerted effort, but I did it. 100 films. Movie Master status.

That's the whole point of taking up a challenge. If it's easy, why bother? The point is to stretch outside of your comfort zone.

When I began this challenge, I knew I wasn't watching as many films as I once used to do. Films are the joy of my life aside from dance. If I wasn't making room in my life for joy, it was time to do something about that.

A brief shout-out to my late dog Xena:

Last January 1st, one of the things I was happiest about was the time I knew I would be spending snuggled up on the couch with my dog. She spent many an hour beneath my chair here at my desk waiting patiently until I switched over to the couch for some Pack time.

Only six days into 2012, my Xena passed away at age 11. I almost couldn't bear continuing on with the new Movie Madness Challenge, since a big part of it had been my intention to watch the movies with Xena cuddled up beside me.

Yet I persisted.

I dedicate this entire year's Movie Madness Challenge to my little furry chum. Thanks for making all the movies we did share together so comfy and blissful.

I'd also like to tip my hat to my co-movie-watcher: my husband Brad, who watched nearly every movie alongside me. He's a passionate movie watcher himself and far out-stripped me in movie totals. But he had my back for this challenge and helped me keep pace.

Here is my code for the films:

New to me - N
Repeat viewing - R

I'll also be including how I viewed the films:

VHS (yes, we have a lot of those, and a VCR)
Network TV
Pay TV
In theatre

Because I was deeply involved in writing my second Scorpius book in November for NaNoWriMo, I didn't post a separate challenge update and I'm including those films here. There were only three of them!


War and Peace




Pay TV

John Carter
Pay TV

Pay TV

Super 8

The Polar Express


A Christmas Carol


Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Amazing Spider-Man

Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) 

Day Watch (Dnevnoy Dozor)

Blackadder's Christmas Carol

Dr. Who - The Snowmen
Network TV

I combined these two 1-hour Christmas specials to count as one 2-hour film, since I couldn't live through Christmas Eve without watching Blackadder's Christmas Carol, and the Dr. Who special just couldn't be missed. Not with jagged-toothed snowmen.

Les Miserables

Ironiya Sudby (The Irony of Fate)


Team America: World Police

Faraon (Pharaoh)

Stumbled upon this 1966 Polish film on You Tube. Watched it dubbed in Russian without subtitles - good practice for my Russian. Nothing like today's films-for-short-attention-spans. Loved it.

A Fish Called Wanda

This one is scheduled for tonight's New Year's Eve celebration. Can't wait to see it! Haven't seen it since it played first-run at the Runnymede Theatre where Brad and I used to work back in the day, in fact where we met.


Total movies for November - 3

Total movies for December - 17

Total movies for 2012 - 100!


25 Movies: Movie Newbie - reached this first milestone by April

50 Movies: Movie Fanatic - reached this one by July

75 Movies: Movie Critic - reached the third level by October

100+ Movies: Movie Master - it took the 365th day of 2012 to reach the final level. *happy sigh*

Thanks to everyone who checked in on my progress every month!

Friday, December 28, 2012

5 on Friday - Set 151

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Today would have been my dog Xena's 12th birthday.

She passed away on Jan. 6th, and her loss has colored my entire year. It's taken me all of these twelve months to work myself up to this post in her honor.
Happy Birthday, my dear sweet Little Girl.

1 - Precious - Annie Lennox

2 -You're My Best Friend - Queen

3 -Xena, Warrior Princess - Joseph LoDuca

4 - I'd Do Anything For You Oliver! soundtrack

5 - You'll Never Know Vera Lynn

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today.

Join me there for 13 Ways to Meet the New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Virtual Advent Blog Tour 2012

Welcome everyone to A Piece of My Mind!

This is my fifth post for the Virtual Advent Blog Tour. I came across it in 2007, my first year of blogging. In the five years since then, it has been a favorite tradition for me here. So it's with a special sense of excitement that I share with you the most incredible tale of wishes coming true.

Many people, including me, like to usher in the new year with intention. I make a point of including symbolic hopes for the year to come in our celebration. For example, even if our fun is casual and includes just my mom, my husband and myself, we deck ourselves in bling and use the best china and crystal, toast in the new year, open the front door to let the new year in and the back door to let the old year out. That's my mom, below, welcoming 2010. 
Last year the three of us had a Russian New Year's celebration. Why Russian, you may ask? I thought you were French Acadian.
Well, once upon a time - 28 years ago, actually, my sister and I made friends with a Russian cadet from a marine college who sailed into Halifax Harbour aboard the tall ship Kruzenshtern as part of the 1984 Tall Ships Festival. 

You can read about this romantic tale here:

13 Things About the Most Romantic Story You'll Ever Hear

The Iron Curtain was a pretty big obstacle, back in the day. Although we made plans to visit him in his home town of Yaroslavl, he wrote that he’d been drafted into the army and would be there for two years. This was in the late 80s during Russia’s conflict with Afghanistan.

After that, we lost contact with Rashid Kamalov and could only wonder what had become of him.

My love of Russian culture (which had brought us to see the Kruzenshtern in the first place) continued unabated over the years. Of course my passion for all things ballet can never get enough of Russian dancers. I love Russian films, Russian actors, Russian singers and the Russian language.

This led to discovering the completely magical set of New Year’s films, Ironiya sudby and the sequel. So last year, we rang in 2012 with a duplication of the feast shown in those films with a combination of my mom cooking up some dishes, and with us ordering dishes from a Russian restaurant across the harbor in Halifax.
Then we watched the movie.

We used all the best dishes, the best crystal, the best prosecco from the imported wines store.


In my mind was the intention that I would one day make my way to St. Petersburg in Russia to see the Mariinsky Ballet perform at the Mariinsky theatre.

The unspoken longing to hear from Rashid was just a part of me. It was part of everything Russian that I loved.

Fast forward to the late spring. I stumbled upon a fantastic Russian historical series Bednaya Nastya on You Tube which I then watched on with subtitles. My husband became utterly addicted to it and watched it with me. It was awesome.

My comprehension of Russian really grew. I bought a few learn-to-speak-Russian books, kept watching Russian films, made a Russian-song playlist and listened to it constantly.

In August I appeared as an author at Fan Expo in Toronto with my two releases, SAINT SANGUINUS and BOUND BYDRAGONSFYRE. I held a contest for local Toronto book store gift certificates and contacted the winners by email.

I kept checking my spam folder in case the whole contest thing was driving their replies into that folder.

Otherwise I never would have checked my spam folder.

I never would have seen this staring at me:

Рашид Камалов Hi my dearest girles!!! I very happy get your m...

That’s right. The word that looks sort of like ‘pawned’ is really ‘Rashid’ in the Cryllic alphabet.

All my blogging and all of my longtime readers’ hopes that we would one day reunite, all of the searching online and sending out hopeful ‘Is this you?’ messages


Rashid is now my Facebook friend.

For realz.

My holiday wish for all of you this year: meet 2013 with intention. The universe is listening.

5 on Friday - Set 150

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Nothing like making it past an ancient prediction for Apocalypse to make this morning's air so very sweet, eh?

In true Canadian fashion, here's my End of the World set - enjoy today and your holidays like there's no tomorrow.

1 - Wondering Where the Lions Are - Bruce Cockburn

2 -Venice is Sinking - Spirit of the West

3 -Lovers in a Dangerous Time - Barenaked Ladies

4 - Sudbury Saturday Night - Stompin Tom Connors

5 - End of the World - Great Big Sea


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Thirteen - 258 - 13 Questions For Daisy Piper, Author of Princess Callie and The Race For the Ruby Cup

Just in time for Christmas, here's children's tween fantasy author Daisy Piper dropping by A Piece of My Mind.

Hi, Daisy! Come in, come in - it's pretty slushy and cold out there. I know my readers are curious about your latest release in the Callie Chronicles series. 

1Let’s get readers caught up on the series so far. In Book 1 of the Callie Chronicles
Callie Richards is an ordinary girl…  except that on her twelfth birthday she makes a shocking discovery.  When Callie gets a message in her cereal saying she’s really a princess from a magical land, it seems like a dream come true.  But Callie quickly discovers that being a princess is a lot more than she bargained for.  With her best friend Lewis at her side, as well as a lovable, near-sighted dragon named Earle, Callie must face her own fears as she battles an evil Raven Queen bent on revenge.

2Then in Book 2 we find that…
Callie, Lewis and Earle must go on a quest to find a magical stone.   But as they travel to the ancient city of Antheon, they discover that the legendary stone is sought by friends and foes alike.  As they near the lost city, Callie realizes that nothing is as it seems, and those she holds dear are in grave danger.  In order to protect the land of Albion, Callie may have to pay a price she never imagined.

3Now in Book 3
The international dragon racing championship is on, and Callie and Lewis are excited to compete for the Ruby Cup.  But danger and intrigue surround the event.  Someone in the competition will stop at nothing to win… and the newly discovered ancient scrolls are threatened by evil forces.   As Callie tries to solve an old mystery, long-buried secrets are revealed.  Callie must use all of her powers as she faces her greatest challenge yet.

4What’s the best thing about writing the Callie Chronicles?

The best thing is letting my imagination go wild when I write the first draft.  I’m always amazed at how I often don’t know what’s going to happen next until I type the words onto the page.

 5What have you found to be the most challenging thing?

Like most writers, I would say revisions are the most challenging.  Even though that first draft is fun to write, there are always things to tweak and improve upon later.

 6If Callie could go to a party with other fictional heroines, who would be her BFFs?

I could see her hanging out with Jo from Little Women, Hermione from the Harry Potter series, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

 7What about Lewis? Who would be his blood brothers?

Lewis would totally want to hang with Peter Pan, Harry Potter and Ron, and Elf (as played by Will Farrell).

8Many of your readers have strongly responded to Wanda, one of the main antagonists in the books. Did that surprise you?

Yes it did.  Wanda was never a planned character.  She just forced herself into a scene and has been a big part of the books ever since.  Wanda is a bully—she’s a classmate of Callie and Lewis who follows them into the magical land of Albion. She’s a villain, but a very complex one and I enjoy writing her.  I have had many comments from readers who are concerned about Wanda and find her very sad.  Yet even though she’s a villainous character, I admire Wanda’s bravery, spunk and self-reliance.

 9The power of The Gray Character! My favorite kind.

When you’re not writing, what sorts of things fill up your creative well?

I’m an avid quilter.  I’m usually working on several projects at once.

I also make dresses for little girls in Africa. 

You can check out the website for this organization HERE  -  Little Dresses For Africa

In the summer months I enjoy gardening, too.

10As we head into Christmas week, do you have a favorite holiday recipe you could share?

I have to steal this one from Mom:  Meatballs with chili sauce.  You can make your own meatballs using ground beef or chicken, or frozen ones work well too.  Then, take a jar of grape jelly and a bottle of chili sauce and mix them together.  Cover the meatballs in the sauce and heat.  Makes a great appetizer or main course with rice.

11If you had to keep it to three favorite Christmas songs or pieces of music, what would they be?

Okay, just because I’m trying to squeeze a lot of music in, I’m going to pick the entire Nutcracker Suite as one choice, followed by Frank Sinatra’s “J-I-N-G-L-E Bells,” and the haunting music from The Snowman, “Walking in the Air.”

12Which Christmas show or movie do you simply have to watch each year?

It’s a tie between White Christmas and The Polar Express.

13Thanks so much Daisy, for dropping by today.

Just for you, A Piece of My Mind readers, here's an exclusive excerpt from PRINCESS CALLIE AND THE RACE FOR THE RUBY CUP:

The day of the Albion dragon-racing trials had arrived. Callie and Lewis had been training every day for weeks in order to prepare. They’d practiced take-offs and landings, flying right-side up, upside down, and sideways. They’d flown through narrow rings and hit moving targets. They’d retrieved markers and flown in intricate patterns. It was all part of the ancient sport known as Chiagaruu.

Callie and Lewis were competing for spots on the Royal Albion Team. If they made the cut, they would represent Albion in what amounted to the Dragon Olympics! Riders and dragons from other countries would converge in the royal city of Arraband for the event, and the winning team would take home King Eldric’s Ruby Cup.

To say that Callie and Lewis were excited would be an understatement. Although Callie had previously been afraid to fly on her royal dragon’s back, now she loved it. Sitting on Earle’s back as he whizzed through the air, making daredevil, hair-raising moves—was the most thrilling thing Callie had ever done.

Lewis had taken to the sport like a fish to water. Back home in the Land of Ur, he was known more for his nerdy devotion to books than daredevil stunts. But here in Albion, he had come out of his shell. He rode his dragon, Cool-Jamz, like he’d been born to it.

Of course, Jamz wasn’t really Lewis’s personal dragon. Only members of the Albion royal family could own a dragon. Cool-Jamz was on loan to Lewis from Queen Arabella in recognition of his loyal service to Princess Callie and to the country of Albion.

“What does that mean, ‘Cool-Jamz?’” Queen Arabella had quietly asked Callie when she learned of the dragon’s nickname.

“Um, it means nice music.”

The queen nodded. “I see. Well, that is a lovely name. I approve.”

Now, standing beside Callie and Lewis in the Dragon Arena, Queen Arabella smiled regally. “You look very handsome in your riding gear, Mr. Farnsworth.”

Lewis wore leather pants and a matching jacket in a shade of dark red, and he carried his helmet under his arm. Callie’s gear was similar, only colored a deep plum.

The queen added, “I expect to see impressive things from you and Cool-Jamz today.”

Lewis gave his trademark grin. “You expect correct, your majesty.”

Queen Arabella chuckled at Lewis’s cheeky reply. “And you, Calandria—I look forward to watching you and your Royal Dragon take to the skies.” She reached out to stroke Earle’s scaly purple nose. “Earle is becoming quite a legend, you know.”

“He sure is.” Callie smiled proudly.

“He even has his own fan club,” Lewis said.

“I am well aware,” Queen Arabella replied, pointing to a purple badge near the collar of her gold brocade gown that said, Air Earle. “I’m a member! Sir Reginald has joined, too. And of course, Lord Graydon and Dr. Monsoon. Did you know that members get twenty-percent off all Air Earle merchandise? I’ve ordered a set of pajamas, towels, and sheets! I simply cannot wait ‘til they arrive.”

“Wow,” Lewis remarked. “Terry and Kevin must be raking in the dough.”

Terry and Kevin were gargoyles who guarded one of the gates to the Royal City. After Earle’s defeat of the Raven Queen’s dragon, the gargoyles had started the Official Earle Fan Club. It was a huge success.

Queen Arabella, once more confounded by Lewis’s use of slang, looked to Callie to explain.

“He means they’re making a tidy profit.”

“Oh, I would imagine so. Word is that the Air Earle back pack is completely sold out, and the jackets and hats are on back-order.”

Queen Arabella turned to her lady-in-waiting, who stood nearby. “Lady Markby, would you?—Oh, I’ll get it.” She waved her hand. With her magical powers, she made the purple jacket—which the woman had been holding—float in the air. It came to rest gently upon the queen’s shoulders. She turned so that they could see the Air Earle logo emblazoned on the back, along with an image of Earle wearing his royal jeweled helmet.

The queen grinned like a schoolgirl. “But I have my jacket! Isn’t it, as you say, Mr. Farnsworth, cool?”

Lewis gave her thumbs up. “Supah cool, majesty. You could also say It rulz!”

The queen followed suit. “It rulz! I shall have to try that one at the next war council meeting.”

Callie couldn’t help but laugh out loud at her grandmother, the Queen of Albion, as she attempted to speak in Land of Ur slang. Queen Arabella and Lewis laughed, too.

Soon, Ignatius P. Entwhistle, the royal dragon master, came along. He led Earle and Cool-Jamz behind him. When Callie saw Earle in all his Royal Dragon finery, it made her heart swell with pride. Not that long ago, Earle had almost died after fighting the Raven Queen’s dragon, Kyros. Now every moment with Earle was like a bonus gift for Callie.

For a dragon, Earle was still small for his age and breed, but he’d already proven that in battle, size really didn’t matter. Even though he’d been born near-sighted, he didn’t let imperfect eyesight stop him, either.

On her first trip to Albion, Callie and Ignatius had fashioned Earle a pair of glasses. Those had worked for a while, but a design flaw with the strap had failed to keep the glasses on Earle’s head when he needed them most. Now, he wore a metal, jewel-studded helmet with corrective lenses built in. A sturdy clasp fastened the helmet closed under his chin.

As a reward for Earle’s valiant performance at the Temple of Kuu’Ra, Queen Arabella had given him some of her own royal jewels; it was these which now decorated the silver helmet.

“Hey, Jamz!” Lewis said, rubbing the dragon’s red snout. “You look totally rad—or shall I say, red. Are you ready to blow the roof off this thang?”

Queen Arabella and Ignatius looked at each other, once again dumbfounded by Lewis’s words.

“He means, ‘You look great, and are you ready to do a really good job?’” Callie translated.

Queen Arabella gave an approving nod. “A positive attitude is very important.”

“So it is, Your Majesty,” Ignatius said. “But Mr. Farnsworth, could I ask that you abstain from using Land of Ur slang during the competition? Communication between riders and their trainer is key, and we can’t rely on Callie to translate all the time.”

“Sure, no prob.” Lewis caught himself. “I mean, yes, of course.”

Callie sighed in relief.

“Well, that is settled,” Queen Arabella said. “I see the other riders are making ready for the start of the race. Lady Markby and I must take our seats on the royal dais.” She pulled Callie toward her for a quick hug. “Best of luck, my dear.” She reached out to shake Lewis’s hand. “And to you, Mr. Farnsworth.”

“Thanks, majesty,” he grinned.

“It’s time to go,” Ignatius said, handing Earle’s reins to Callie, and Cool-Jamz’s to Lewis. As they walked toward the starting position in the outdoor Dragon Arena, Ignatius gave them some last minute words of advice. “Lewis, when you go through Turn Three, remember to bank harder to the left. You always come a hair’s-breadth away from the post, there. And your highness, when you take Earle through the zig zag formation, remember to tuck your head down as he comes out of it, or you’ll be late entering the next turn.”

He had a few other pointers for them, which Callie barely heard, because her heart was pounding in her ears. She was excited, but she was nervous, too. It was a competition, after all. Once you and your dragon were out on the course, anything could happen. And when you were hurtling through the air at top speed, dragon and rider had to work as a perfectly synchronized team.

If not, disaster could strike at any moment. People and dragons could get hurt. Callie had almost lost Earle once before. She wouldn’t be able to handle it if something happened to her beloved dragon now.

Ignatius wished them luck as he headed off to the trainer’s area.

Lewis elbowed Callie as they walked. “Are you ready to rumble?”

She rolled her eyes at him.

“This is so razor,” Lewis said.

Callie stared straight ahead, trying to hide her smirk.

Lewis continued. “Slammin’—that’s what this is. I am so amped for this. I am jazzed up. Stoked. Wired. Psyched—”

“Okay, already. I get it.”

Lewis chuckled. “Just trying to get all the slang out of me before the race. I think it worked. I don’t want to get Ignatius all confused with my bodacious word choices.”

“Probably a good thing,” Callie agreed. Lewis was her best friend, but sometimes she just wished he’d speak like a normal kid! “Put your helmet on. We have to mount up soon.”

Callie lifted her helmet and put it on. She made sure the chin clasp was securely closed. She didn’t want it coming loose during the race. Lewis followed suit.

He and Callie began to do their equipment and dragon checks, making sure all straps were fastened properly. If a dragon rider’s equipment failed during a race, the rider had no one to blame but him or herself. That’s what Ignatius had taught them. No one wanted to make a mistake, or worse, get injured because of a strap that wasn’t tight enough or a buckle that came loose.

There was a communication device in each of their helmets, similar to a microphone and speaker. Lewis had been fascinated to learn how it worked. Apparently, the technology used tiny little creatures called zanthers. These airborne life-forms flew so fast they became invisible to the naked eye. When they flew, they gave off vibrations, which could be heard only by other creatures of their species.

Basically, when Ignatius spoke into his device (similar to a microphone), the creatures flew around in a pattern that mimicked the vibration of his voice. These vibrations were picked up by the creatures inside the walls of Callie and Lewis’s helmets, and were repeated by them a millionth of a second later.

After the race, the creatures were taken out of the communication devices and returned to where they lived, at the Department of Royal Albion Communications.

It was pretty cool, and because the system wasn’t dependent on batteries, as it would have been in the Land of Ur, these unusual radios never conked out!

Lewis commanded Cool-Jamz to crouch down so he could place his foot in the stirrup of the saddle. While Callie double-checked another strap, Lewis mounted his dragon and got comfortable in his seat.

He looked down at Callie and gave a macho grin. “How d`ya like me now?”

Callie giggled, shaking her head.

She reached forward and gripped Earle’s saddle for balance as a sudden wave of dizziness came over her. Either she was spinning, or her surroundings were. And she wasn’t spinning.

“Uh-oh,” she said.

“Uh-oh?” Lewis asked.


But Callie never got the chance to say oh.